The effects of different types of adrenoreceptor blocking agents on portal venous pressure were studied in patients with cirrhosis and portal hypertension. Oral atenolol (selective beta 1 blocker), propranolol (non-selective beta 1 and beta 2 blocker), and prazosin (alpha blocker) were compared in three groups of eight patients. Haemodynamic measurements were made before and after two or three and eight weeks of therapy. The dose of beta blockers was sufficient to reduce the exercise heart rate by more than 25%. Propranolol and prazosin produced a sustained reduction in the mean portohepatic venous pressure gradient of the order of 25% and 18% respectively. The cardiac index was significantly reduced by propranolol but not altered by prazosin. Atenolol produced an early reduction in portohepatic venous pressure which, although not sustained, showed a good correlation with reduction in cardiac index. No such relationship was found with propranolol. All three drugs were well tolerated by these patients with advanced cirrhosis. Therefore propranolol and prazosin have proved to be effective agents for the reduction of portal venous pressure.
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